Achenbach: Industry Cup reflects affection for game

Harry Arnett (left) and Jason Finley (right) of Callaway chat with the team from Cobra, including Jose Miraflor (middle), on the practice range prior to the start of the final round at the Industry Cup in Irvine, Calif.

Harry Arnett (left) and Jason Finley (right) of Callaway chat with the team from Cobra, including Jose Miraflor (middle), on the practice range prior to the start of the final round at the Industry Cup in Irvine, Calif.

IRVINE, Calif. -- TaylorMade won Golfweek's Industry Cup, the event that attracts four-person teams from across the golf industry, but the essence of this event at Oak Creek Golf Club went far beyond the competition.

Just look at what today's golf companies have done.

These companies are in business to make money, but they also make it their business to benefit the game by adding to the fun and enjoyment.

Basic golf equipment –­ clubs, shafts, balls and grips – has never been better. This stuff really works. Furthermore, it is designed and configured by a collection of engineers and craftsmen with a deep affection for the game.

Anyone who has listened to Stephanie Bezilla, director of metalwood engineering for Titleist, has witnessed the passion. She can quickly articulate the love of sport and the lure of golf – emotional content within the scientific framework of golf club design.

Bezilla is a regular player at the Industry Cup. The golf manufacturers take this tournament very seriously. Many of the companies hold qualifying events. They often name captains, such as Brian Bazzel of TaylorMade and Chris McGinley of Titleist.

This year's Industry Cup gathering was noteworthy because two widely known industry leaders, TaylorMade chief executive Mark King and Cobra Puma Golf president Bob Philion, took the time to play.

"It's important that we have the same feelings for golf that our customers have," King said. "They're crazy about golf, we're crazy about golf."

As much as all these companies are rivals, they remain united in their fascination with golf. As the sport goes, so goes the growth of the golf industry.

TaylorMade's winning team included Greg Cesario, Frank Firman, Pete Roberts and Joe Ryon. The 36-hole gross competition includes four nine-hole formats.

The first three are shambles, better-ball and Pinehurst. The final nine usually determines the winner, because every team must count its three lowest nine-hole scores. Ryon, a research analyst, led the winners with a 4-under 32 on the last nine.

Apart from the tournament, a long-drive contest was added this year. The winner was 150-pound Titleist research engineer Grant Martens, who was transformed into some kind of Incredible Hulk before hitting three consecutive drives of 312, 313 and 314 yards in cold conditions.

No, those yardages are not manipulated. While being required to hit the elusive 10th fairway at Oak Creek, Martens increased his distance by one yard on each ball.

Besides Martens, the only other player to hit three consecutive balls in the fairway was Roger Teat of Cobra Puma. A match-play format was used, and each player counted only his longest drive in each round.

Watching with a bemused smile was Pat Dempsey, a tour rep for the UST Mamiya shaft company. Dempsey, 57, is a four-time world long drive champion but was not allowed to compete because of his unusual credentials.

That didn't stop UST Mamiya's Mike Guerrette from using one of the Dempsey's drivers, although Guerrette fell out in the first round.

Oak Creek, host of the industry Cup for the first time, is an unusual public facility. Although located in the heart of Irvine, it has no houses or structures on the property. It is shielded from busy Southern California by hills and hollows and trees strategically placed by architect Tom Fazio.

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